Twelve days ago, Congress released a statement saying the Farm Bill had been agreed upon “in principle.” Since then, it has been undergoing legislative language tweaks and awaiting Congressional Budget Office scores (read this to learn what CBO scores mean). Late Monday evening, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees finally released the bipartisan conference report with the final text of the bill.
This 807-page bill, titled H.R. 2 (115) is estimated to cost $867 billion over the course of 10 years.
According to Politico reporters, these are the most notable titles, many of which have been hot-button topics since Farm Bill talks began:
“Commodities: The conference report lets farmers adjust their average crop yields on file with USDA, a compromise to the standoff between Midwestern senators and House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway over his narrower proposal that would have largely helped Texas cotton growers.
Here is the full text of the report. Just know that this isn’t a done-deal yet.
Nutrition: The deal leaves out major SNAP changes sought by House GOP members, like stricter work requirements, tighter eligibility standards and language to rein in state waivers for existing SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.
Forestry: The Farm Bill would waive environmental reviews for activities like clearing diseased or insect-infested trees — but the changes are far short of what House Republicans had proposed. Forest management and wildfire prevention was one of the last issues holding up negotiations in November.
The legislation also includes a small boost for trade-promotion efforts, a new initiative to combat animal diseases (including a livestock vaccine bank), grant funding for urban and indoor farming, and a provision returning the top USDA position on rural development to a Senate-confirmed post. Controversial provisions to ease pesticide restrictions and endangered species protections were left out.”
Also included is $30 million dollars a year for a program to fight animal diseases. Remember the beef industry farm bill needs included a vaccine bank to protect against a devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. This was also sought-after by all livestock industries.
Another notable program includes industrial hemp. This will legalize the cultivation and sale of the plant and removes it from the Controlled Substance Act to allow States to regulate the production of it. The program approves programs for research, commercial and pilot programs with plants that contain less than 0.03 percent THC.
Most industries are elated over the news, including American Farmland Trust, which praised the conference report, stating, “Farmers, ranchers and the many partner organizations who use USDA programs to fund innovative work around the country can breathe a sigh of relief. The 2018 Farm Bill is just steps away from becoming law,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “AFT urges members of the House and Senate to vote to pass this bill, to allow programs to move forward expeditiously.”
He continued, “We are losing farmland at a rate of three acres a minute—31 million acres between 1992 and 2012 alone. Farmland is lost when farmers and ranchers don’t have adequate risk-management tools. When they can’t find new markets or develop new products. When there’s no next generation farmer able to afford the land that an exiting farmer is selling. When there’s not enough funding to meet demand for the sale of agricultural conservation easements. This bill, while not perfect, is an important step in addressing these needs.”
U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “This legislation maintains a strong safety net for the farm economy, invests in critical agricultural research, and will promote agriculture exports through robust trade programs. While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reforms, the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities.”
Here is the text of the report. This isn’t a done-deal just yet, however. First, the House Rules Committee will need a House floor vote. Then, the Senate will vote. Both chambers are expected to vote and have the bill placed on President Trump’s desk by the end of this week. Both houses are expected to approve the conference report without much difficulty, in order to avoid any further delay due to Congress going into recess just before the Christmas holiday.
Markie Hageman majored in agribusiness at Fort Hays State University. She is actively involved in her state Cattlemen’s Association, Young Farmers chapter, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Her AGDAILY.com articles can be found here.